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Lightning intend to take advantage of rest entering Eastern Final

Plan to be better prepared following down time ahead of series against Capitals

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning can't make the same mistake in the Eastern Conference Final that they made in the second round.

The Lightning lacked intensity and had issues with their defensive zone coverage in a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 1. That game was their first in six days following their first-round win against the New Jersey Devils in five.

They won the next four against Boston to reach the conference final, when they will play the Washington Capitals, who advanced with a 2-1 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 on Monday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Bruins series coverage]

 

"We'll take [the rest] if we got it here; we've got to learn a lesson too, where we started out a little slow in this series [against Boston] and it cost us a game," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "I'm sure we'll work on things and try to utilize whatever rest we can, but at the same time be ready right from the start of Game 1 because it could be a difference here in this next one."

Lightning center Steven Stamkos laughed a little when he said maybe coming out flat and losing Game 1 against the Bruins the way they did wasn't so bad after all.

"I think it woke us up a little bit," Stamkos said. "Obviously, we knew the series had started."

Stamkos, of course, can say that now because the Lightning won the next four games. The same thing might not happen against the Capitals. 

That's why McDonagh talked about using it as a lesson, part of which is not falling into a false sense of accomplishment, something the Lightning were almost guilty of against Boston.

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Lightning move to Conference Final

They left Amalie Arena after Game 1 angry because of the loss but most of the players and coach Jon Cooper seemed OK with how they played, especially since they controlled possession for much of the game and outshot the Bruins 36-24, including 25-11 after the first period.

Yet, it was obvious the Lightning had issues in their defensive zone and weren't all that dangerous with the puck when they had it. That coupled with the feeling that they had more to give made McDonagh use the words wakeup call following the loss.

He was vindicated after going over the film.

"I think the vibe in the room was we were right there with them, but in reality we had some meetings and talked, and we weren't even close to where we needed to be," McDonagh said. "That was what I felt and that was why I called it a wakeup call."

The Lightning were dominant in the next four games. They won them by a combined score of 15-7 and didn't give up a 5-on-5 goal in the final 187:20 of the series. They also scored a power-play goal in every game.

"There was no panic," Stamkos said. "Coming into that first game, we were confident obviously from the first series. It didn't go the way we wanted it to. We knew the next game was the most important at that time. Win and go into Boston and just get one. That's the mentality you have. Then you get the first one and you're like, 'Well, we're here, we might as well get the second one.' Obviously that OT winner [in Game 4] was huge. It gives you life. It gives you energy. 

"It gives you a chance to [win it] back home. That's what experienced teams do, when they have a chance to close out a team, you close them out. No one wanted to go back on a plane. We did that in the first series with Jersey and we did it again."

And now they rest, and wait. Those are good things, provided they start the next series on time.

"The rest is a weapon at this time of year," forward J.T. Miller said. "The other teams are going to beat each other up for hopefully two more games here. We're still not taking anything lightly because that team, whoever we're going to play, is going to earn the right to be here too and they're going to be hungry."

***

 

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